2021 Election: Schmeck, Sheppard advance to general in school board race

Two candidates vying for an open Sequim School Board director seat this fall both want to keep Critical Race Theory from reaching Sequim students.

Kristi Schmeck and Virginia Sheppard advanced to the 2021 General Election after earning 3,057 (28.85 percent) and 3,029 votes (28.58) percent respectively in the Aug. 3 Primary Election as they vie for the school board’s director-at-large position seat to be vacated by Brandino Gibson.

Rachel Tax came in a close third with 2,842 votes (26.8 percent) and Derek Huntington placed fourth (1,651 votes, 15.6 percent).

Schmeck initially filed for the seat but said she attempted to withdraw early on for personal reasons.

“I did try to officially withdraw; however, I spoke with the Elections office and in their mind, I am still a candidate,” Schmeck said by email last week. “After the results came from the primary I changed my mind.”

Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said that candidates who file for election must withdraw by the Monday after filing week for their names to not appear on the primary and general election ballots.

In the Clallam County Voter’s Guide, Schmeck lists her professional experience as an educator/coach for more than 25 years and a charter school athletic director. She also volunteered as a middle school youth group leader at a church for the past two years, ran an after-school program at Sequim Middle School (2019-2020) and volunteered for sports programs as a coach and manager for basketball, baseball and swimming teams.

“I decided to run for school board because of my passion and love for children, their health and future success,” Schmeck wrote last week. “As a teacher with experience from elementary to high school, I had the privilege of impacting children, as a school board member I see an opportunity to impact a system that is in need of change.”

Schmeck said her teaching experience in Sequim Middle School and passion for success and well-being of the community of students was evident in her statement.

“Also, I encourage and support after school programs. Lastly, I am a mother and grandmother,” she said.

Sheppard, a long-time Clallam County resident, said in a press release in May that she will be focused on “an educational environment that fosters growth, community and citizenship.”

Sheppard is a mother of two and a grandmother, with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She has experience in the schools as a former volunteer art teacher, teacher’s aide, as well as a treasurer for parent-teacher groups.

Two director positions with the Sequim School Board of Directors were up for election this year after both incumbents declined to run for re-election. Gibson, the school board’s president, and Brian Kuh, District 2 director, both declined to file for their positions during the mid-May filing period. While four candidates filed for Gibson’s seat just one, Patrice (“Pat”) Johnston, filed for Kuh’s District 2 position.

CRT, sex education issues

In early August, Sheppard wrote in an email that she’s hearing from parents, citizens and students who are concerned about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and sex education curriculum touted by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Parents and grandparents want their right to raise their children and to have the schools get back to being teachers instead of pseudo parents under government control,” she said in an email last week.

In her Primary Election candidate statement, Sheppard noted, “I am concerned about the move toward implementing subjects like Critical Race Theory imprudently which if implemented without proper community vetting can serve only to divide and discriminate. I believe our children can benefit from learning about accurate history, learning about the Constitution, reading, writing and math.”

Schmeck said she and Sheppard are “on the same page in regards to why we are running for school board,” in an email.

“As a school board member our responsibility is to represent the community, parents and our students,” Schmeck said. “My main concerns are the implementation of Critical Race Theory, the new adopted sex education program (CSE), and Parents rights.

“I believe that CRT is an instrument of racism and discrimination. I am opposed to anything that is offered to our children without parental consent.”

Sequim schools superintendent Jane Pryne addressed both Critical Race Theory and sex education curriculum issues at the Aug. 2 school board meeting.

“I wanted to clear up some things: We don’t teach Critical Race Theory; (it) doesn’t appear anywhere in the law,” she said. The district does teach cultural competency standards that will be available for viewing on the district website (sequimschools.org).

Parents can have their students opt out of sex education curriculum, she said, and students in grades kindergarten through third grade do not receive sex education lessons.

“We’ll make sure parents are well aware of what’s being taught (and of their) option to opt in or opt out,” Pryne said.

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